Stories tagged science

Twin Cities Naturalist
Twin Cities NaturalistCourtesy Twin Cities Naturalist
Spring seems to be approximately three weeks head of schedule this year. Check out this week's Phenology Roundup where professional naturalist Kirk Mona of Twin Cities Naturalist discusses what was seen around the Twin Cities area in the past week.

Phenology is the science of the seasons. It looks at how and when nature changes according to seasonal climatic conditions.

View a summary of phenology sightings in the Twin Cities this past week.

Apr
20
2010

Physicist Neil deGrasse Tyson said,

"If you're scientifically literate, the world looks very different to you. And that understanding empowers you."

(You can hear Mr. Tyson "sing" this line in the Symphony of Science/Poetry of Reality video below.)

Earthquake: Are you going to listen to the guy who tells you this happened because of a ghost? A pact with the Devil? Because God is angry with unveiled and unchaste women? No, thanks. My money's on the well-understood science of plate tectonics, and I'll be looking to the science peeps for the solutions, too.
Earthquake: Are you going to listen to the guy who tells you this happened because of a ghost? A pact with the Devil? Because God is angry with unveiled and unchaste women? No, thanks. My money's on the well-understood science of plate tectonics, and I'll be looking to the science peeps for the solutions, too.Courtesy United Nations Development Programme

I've been thinking about that idea a lot today after hearing two stories:

  1. In the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake, Protestants, Catholics, and practitioners of Voodoo are trying to increase followers by placing blame for the quake on supernatural causes. Some blame it on Voodoo, claiming that the earthquake is the price for a centuries old covenant made on the eve of the Haitian revolution. Others say Voodoo isn't at fault, but the consequence of not properly burying Jean-Jacques Dessalines, a hero of the Haitian revolution. (And you don't have to be living in Haiti to believe some of this stuff -- just listen to Pat Robertson).
  2. And in Iran, one of the most earthquake-prone places on Earth, Senior Cleric Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi was recently quoted saying, "Many women who do not dress modestly ... lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes. ... What can we do to avoid being buried under the rubble? ... There is no other solution but to take refuge in religion and to adapt our lives to Islam's moral codes."

Huh?

The cause of the Haitian earthquake is clear--100% explainable without having to invoke pacts with the Devil or martyr's ghosts. Same in Iran -- geologic activity in the area will continue whether or not women are veiled and chaste.

The solution is not "to take refuge in religion." The wrangling over unverifiable, supernatural causes for things diverts very needed resources and attention from real world solutions to very urgent problems.

The solution is to take refuge in science. Michael Shermer (yup, he "sings") says,

"Science is the best tool ever devised for understanding how the world works."

The Earth hasn't changed. People have. We're seeing quake activity with big consequences because there are more of us than ever before, many, many of us live in developing countries where large populations live in dense communities with lax building codes, and communications technology means that we know what has happened, not because we're paying a geological price for not living our lives correctly.

So what do we do? We innovate. We devise new and better monitoring and warning systems. We develop building techniques that are both locally appropriate and safer in the event of a quake. We teach people how to protect themselves in an emergency and how to react afterwards.

Richard Dawkins (my current nerd crush; you can watch him "sing" in the video, too.) said,

"Science replaces private prejudice with publicly verifiable evidence."

How can you not get behind an idea like that?

Mar
04
2010

Missing Link - Not

Darwinius masillae
Darwinius masillaeCourtesy University of Oslo
Perhaps taking advantage of the Darwin publicity last year (200th birthday), a scientific paper was published revealing Ida, a 47 million year old fossil classified Darwinius masillae.
The study's lead author, Jørn Hurum of the University of Oslo, variously called the fossil the holy grail of paleontology and the lost ark of archeology. A two-hour documentary called "The Link" was on the History Channel and a book with the same title hit bookstores.

One million dollars

How big money became mixed with science is described in the Guardian post titled Deal in Hamburg bar led scientist to Ida fossil, the 'eighth wonder of the world'.
Now that money has been made, it is time for the scientific process (peer review).

John Fleagle, a professor at Stony Brook University, in New York state, who reviewed the paper for the journal, agrees that the fossil is not a lemur. But Ida's full significance would not be known until other scientists had seen the paper. "That will be sorted out, or at least debated extensively, in the coming years."

Confirmed: Fossil Ida is not a human ancestor

In a paper in the Journal of Human Evolution, Chris Kirk strongly argue(d) that Darwinius is not one of our ancestors. Science blogger, Brian Switek, also explains why ... That "Ida" is Not Our Great-Great-Great-Great-Etc. Grandmother. Dissenting scientists are awaiting a response from Jørn Hurum.

How science should be done

I am reminded of another case where the media was used to hype a story before it was properly reviewed by others. I wrote about it here: Jesus and family found in tomb? What moral is to be learned here?

Don't announce discoveries through the media, but through the tried and tested peer-review process.

Feb
21
2010

A picture is worth how many words?

Effective illustration
Effective illustrationCourtesy Da Vinci

When attempting to communicate the world of science, visualization often works better than words. Illustrations are a quick and effective means for communicating science, engineering and technology to an often scientifically challenged population.

Competition makes us better

The National Science Foundation and the journal, Science, created the International Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge to encourage the continued growth toward this journalistic goal.

Judges appointed by the National Science Foundation and the journal Science will select winners in each of five categories: photographs, illustrations, informational graphics, interactive media and non-interactive media. NSF.gov

Want to see the winners?

This link will take you to the 2004-2009 International Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge winners. I am also embedding a You Tube video of past competitions below.
.

Scientist's words turned into a music video.

Pretty cool. There are more if you click the link.

Hey - I'm John Boswell, the head musician and producer behind the Symphony of Science. The goal of the project is to bring scientific knowledge and philosophy to the masses, in a novel way, through the medium of music.

Dec
26
2009

GOCE Satellite: The Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer
GOCE Satellite: The Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation ExplorerCourtesy ESA
Can it be true? Yes, for a mere $5,544 dollars round-trip airfare to Greenland! In March 2009, the European Space Agency launched the Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) into orbit around our planet, which is now transmitting detailed data about the Earth’s gravity. The GOCE satellite uses a gradiometer to map tiny variations in the Earth’s gravity caused by the planet’s rotation, mountains, ocean trenches, and interior density. New maps illustrating gravity gradients on the Earth are being produced from the information beamed back from GOCE. Preliminary data suggests that there is a negative shift in gravity in the northeastern region of Greenland where the Earth’s tug is a little less, which means you might weigh a fraction of a pound lighter there (a very small fraction, so it may not be worth the plane fare)!

In America, NASA and Stanford University are also working on the gravity issue. Gravity Probe B (GP-B) is a satellite orbiting 642 km (400 miles) above the Earth and uses four gyroscopes and a telescope to measure two physical effects of Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity on the Earth: the Geodetic Effect, which is the amount the earth warps its spacetime, and the Frame-Dragging Effect, the amount of spacetime the earth drags with it as it rotates. (Spacetime is the combination of the three dimensions of space with the one dimension of time into a mathematical model.)

Quick overview time. The Theory of General Relativity is simply defined as: matter telling spacetime how to curve, and curved spacetime telling matter how to move. Imagine that the Earth (matter) is a bowling ball and spacetime is a trampoline. If you place the bowling ball in the center of the trampoline it stretches the trampoline down. Matter (the bowling ball) curves or distorts the spacetime (trampoline). Now toss a smaller ball, like a marble, onto the trampoline. Naturally, it will roll towards the bowling ball, but the bowling ball isn’t ‘attracting’ the marble, the path or movement of the marble towards the center is affected by the deformed shape of the trampoline. The spacetime (trampoline) is telling the matter (marble) how to move. This is different than Newton’s theory of gravity, which implies that the earth is attracting or pulling objects towards it in a straight line. Of course, this is just a simplified explanation; the real physics can be more complicated because of other factors like acceleration.

Albert Einstein
Albert EinsteinCourtesy none
So what is the point of all this high-tech gravity testing? First of all, our current understanding of the structure of the universe and the motion of matter is based on Albert Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity; elaborate concepts and mathematical equations conceived by a genius long before we had the technology to directly test them for accuracy. The Theory of General Relativity is the cornerstone of modern physics, used to describe the universe and everything in it, and yet it is the least tested of Einstein’s amazing theories. Testing the Frame-Dragging Effect is particularly exciting for physicists because they can use the data about the Earth’s influence on spacetime to measure the properties of black holes and quasars.

Second, the data from the GOCE satellite will help accurately measure the real acceleration due to gravity on the earth, which can vary from 9.78 to 9.83 meters per second squared around the planet. This will help scientists analyze ocean circulation and sea level changes, which are influenced by our climate and climate change. The information that the GOCE beams back will also assist researchers studying geological processes such as earthquakes and volcanoes.

So, as I gobble down another mouthful of leftover turkey and mashed potatoes, I can feel confident that my holiday weight gain and the structure of the universe are of grave importance to the physicists of the world!

Oct
21
2009

At The Science Museum, we should have Stuff About Science Fiction and where we came from.
There is a game Called Spore, Here read about it (Read about Spore Here) and the game is about evolution from a cell - creature - tribe runner - civilization owner - space explorer. It is really fun.
Google Link here.
There is Spore, Then Spore Creepy and Cute, Then Spore Galactic Adventures for Computer.

75 words, cannot change
my email is x86cam@gmail.com
________________________________
OK, I like Windows and Windows 7.
Buzz is Awesome.
If the science museum accepts that, email me above.

Thanks to link from a Facebook friend, I've been able to learn all of science by watching this cartoon featuring music by They Might Be Giants. You can thank me when you ace your next science test after viewing this.

Sep
03
2009

The Minnesota State Fair is in full swing this week, and lest you think it's just a band of hucksters pandering to a bunch of yokels, you couldn't be more wrong. Science is evident all over the fair, no matter where you look. I didn't capture everything but in my short amble around the fairgrounds I came across all sorts of examples of science and science in action, as the photographs illustrate. Of course, it's just a small sample of what's out there. The fair runs through Labor Day so there's still time to get there and discover for yourself all the fun science that can be found at the Great Minnesota Get Together.

Geology: The Geological Society of Minnesota booth in the Education Building.
Geology: The Geological Society of Minnesota booth in the Education Building.Courtesy Mark Ryan

Biology and nature: The Department of Natural Resources building is a great place to experience the call of nature.
Biology and nature: The Department of Natural Resources building is a great place to experience the call of nature.Courtesy Mark Ryan

Paleontology: Dinosaur World is a new exhibit at the fair this year. Inside are skeletons, fossils, and information about dinosaurs and other prehistoric life.
Paleontology: Dinosaur World is a new exhibit at the fair this year. Inside are skeletons, fossils, and information about dinosaurs and other prehistoric life.Courtesy Mark Ryan

Population and habitat studies: Determine the time it takes a species to fill its range.
Population and habitat studies: Determine the time it takes a species to fill its range.Courtesy Mark Ryan

Winds of change: If you're into controversial ideas like climate change, head over to the Eco building where you can see new innovations in sustainability. They've got electric cars, solar cells, and other new eco-friendly stuff. It used to be called the Technology building. What's up with that?
Winds of change: If you're into controversial ideas like climate change, head over to the Eco building where you can see new innovations in sustainability. They've got electric cars, solar cells, and other new eco-friendly stuff. It used to be called the Technology building. What's up with that?Courtesy Mark Ryan

Gravitation: Fair-goers can experience the persistent tug of gravity for just three bucks.
Gravitation: Fair-goers can experience the persistent tug of gravity for just three bucks.Courtesy Mark Ryan

Food science: Sometimes experiments go awry, but it's all just part of the scientific process.
Food science: Sometimes experiments go awry, but it's all just part of the scientific process.Courtesy Mark Ryan

Evolution: Transitional fossils? Sure, there are plenty to see in museums around the world, but who needs them? Fair-goers can witness for themselves one species evolving into another.
Evolution: Transitional fossils? Sure, there are plenty to see in museums around the world, but who needs them? Fair-goers can witness for themselves one species evolving into another.Courtesy Mark Ryan

Space exploration: To boldly go where a lot of people have gone before.
Space exploration: To boldly go where a lot of people have gone before.Courtesy Mark Ryan

Electromagnetism: The wonder of it all!
Electromagnetism: The wonder of it all!Courtesy Mark Ryan

Angular momentum: P = mv. Oh boy!
Angular momentum: P = mv. Oh boy!Courtesy Mark Ryan

Orogeny: Mountain building at its finest.
Orogeny: Mountain building at its finest.Courtesy Mark Ryan

Immunology: It was reported today that 120 4-H'ers were sent home from the fair as a precaution because 4 members tested positive for the H1N1 flu virus. But assistant state health commissioner John Stine said "it is perfectly safe for people to come to the State Fair."
Immunology: It was reported today that 120 4-H'ers were sent home from the fair as a precaution because 4 members tested positive for the H1N1 flu virus. But assistant state health commissioner John Stine said "it is perfectly safe for people to come to the State Fair."Courtesy Mark Ryan

Probability: See if you can scientifically calculate if this guy's girlfriend goes home with a giant Sponge Bob Squarepants.
Probability: See if you can scientifically calculate if this guy's girlfriend goes home with a giant Sponge Bob Squarepants.Courtesy Mark Ryan

Jul
19
2009

USS SMM prepares to launch
USS SMM prepares to launchCourtesy Mark Ryan
I watched the Aquatennial's Milk Carton Boat Races today at Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis. One of the early heats included an entry from the Science Museum. Houston we have a problem!: Most of the ship's hull and all of the bilge had to be removed to correct flotation problems.
Houston we have a problem!: Most of the ship's hull and all of the bilge had to be removed to correct flotation problems.Courtesy Mark Ryan
I don't know who was sailing the ship but dang if science didn't prevail!

The boat looked sea-worthy enough on land but once it was placed into the water, it just didn't want to remain upright. But the hardy crew never despaired, and instead re-engineered the ship (ala Apollo 13) on the spot by removing the entire pesky bottom half and using only the deck to complete the race. Science prevails!: The crew of the reconfigured USS SMM limps bravely and safely toward the finish line with honor and dignity intact.
Science prevails!: The crew of the reconfigured USS SMM limps bravely and safely toward the finish line with honor and dignity intact.Courtesy Mark Ryan

They didn't win by any means, and at times it looked like they weren't using a boat at all, but they worked together to solve problems and got to shore safely.